The idea began with a spring 2012 lecture at Emory University that I covered for Art21: Sanford Biggers: Contemporary Mandala and the Hip-Hop Ethos. Next came visits to exhibitions at Ringling Museum of Art and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Then my advisor got the attention of someone at the National Science Foundation to fund a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics) workshop for experts in learning sciences, STEM education and contemporary art. At the top of my participant list was ethnomathematician Ron Eglash of African Fractals fame and Sanford Biggers. A chance meeting with a former director of the Office of the Arts at Georgia Tech last December led to a visiting artist residency with Sanford Biggers in 2014, in conjunction with Africa Atlanta 2014. Africa Atlanta 2014 is a city wide year-long celebration of cultural and economic bonds among African, European, and American cultures in Atlanta.
My initial question to Sanford was: Would you be interested in coming to Georgia Tech to explore STEAM education and your art? The answer was yes (obviously). Note that my Ph.D. research investigates culturally situated arts-based design and new media, their invention, and use in underrepresented creative communities of practice. This includes the use of new technologies with existing cultural art forms. The aim is to increase interest and personal motivation among underrepresented ethnic groups. A general topic for the STEAM workshop is the African Diaspora –the movement of people of African descent to places all over the world. By linking Sanford’s and other artists’ work to STEAM education and research I am hoping to position this work on a broader scale for bigger impact:
This project seeks to advance discovery and understanding in STEM; broaden participation and enhance diversity; and enhance infrastructure for research and education by developing an agenda that communicates the value of culturally situated arts-based learning and design. Project activities and products are synergistic with local, regional and national initiatives that provide multiple access points to current knowledge, real objects, and authentic experiences.
Sanford’s residency will kick off in early 2014 with educational activities to support Georgia Tech faculty and students, as well as a possible site visit to Drew Charter School. These activities will hopefully be linked with external Africa Atlanta events that culminate in public exhibitions at Georgia Tech, DCS and the Historic Westside Community. Drew is one of the highest performing schools in the city and has an established relationship with Georgia Tech. DCS Director of Curriculum Boon Boonyapat gave us a tour of the facility on Thursday and we discussed the students creating an art project in response to Sanford’s residency and work. I revisited the STEMArts curriculum from ISEA2012 to create a new background summary based on Sanford’s work. I am doing this now to demonstrate how his art links to STEM, not as a carrot to lure learners to STEM but as a way to deeply explore STEM concepts in contemporary art based on relevant cultural forms and technology.
On March 28 Sanford will perform with his concept band Moon Medicine at the Ferst Center for the Arts. Moon Medicine features live work that weaves found images of punk, funk, film noir, sci-fi, traditional Samoan dance, and Buddhism with original video content and improvised turntableism and veejaying. Sanford will incorporate clips from his film/video series Shuffle, Shake and Shatter, as well as artifacts from Africa Atlanta exhibits such as colonial maps of the continent.
This all came about from hearing Sanford’s lecture at Emory University last spring and it’s been moving forward ever since. In the meantime Sanford has a show at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts that runs through August 4th. I covered Codex last year when it was at Ringling Museum of Art but there are new pieces in the current show. So much has happened since then and so much more is to come!